Matthes Crest 2002

Mathes Crest at sunset from Echo Lake
Matthes Crest at sunset. The climb starts on the right and traverses the entire ridge.

Paul Morgan and I were on a quest to do the longest routes in Tuolumne CA. Matthes Crest was the center or the triumvirate of climbs 3/4 mile of ridge walking.

The strat of Matthes Crest from the South The line we took on Matthes
The start of Matthes Crest and the route we took. There are various routes of equal difficulty.

We got up at 6:20 AM, just as it got bright enough to see without headlamps. The night had been clear and cold. There was frost upon our sleeping bags and our water bottles were mostly frozen. We got up and wore our long underwear and down parkas. Paul Morgan said that wearing parkas was so comfortable it was almost cheating.

We started hiking by 7:30 AM. We headed uphill toward the tallest tree just below the low point on the ridge where the climb starts. From that tree we followed winding paths through the brush that led us to the warm sunshine below the climb. We were going for a full day so we each took our own Stealth packs (by Mountain Tools) my hiking boots fit into the pack, plus water and raincoat and lunch. It fit so well I didn't notice the pack on the climb.

The First Pitch of Matthes Crest
The start of the first pitch of Matthes Crest.

The south buttress is tall and complex. The book "Tuolumne Ultra Classics" includes a good topo of the very route we had followed on our previous two visits to Matthes." We started up an easy low angle rightward slanting groove past a single chockstone, and then left and up a chimney. I stopped after less than a rope length to avoid rope drag through the rough textured rock. There were many ways to go, I loved trying to figure out the best way. I was pleased when after 3 pitches we arrived at the top of the ridge. The ridge was crowned by towers, culminating with the highest, hardest north summit.

looking north along Matthes Crest
Looking north along the ridge of Matthes Crest.

Once on the ridge we simulclimbed, I placed protection so that there would always be 3 pieces between us, and we moved along briskly. Paul mentioned that he had never simulclimbed before, he sure was fast on his first try. Some parts of the ridge were easy romps, others were tougher.

Half way between the start and the summit Matthes Crest
After some initial towers the ridge becomes an easier romp.

Soon we came to the south tower, it was an easy climb but the summit is off route. When we were on the south summit and watched two climbers pass us on the ridge. We saw them look at the crux climb up the north summit. They rejected the corner that the topo showed was 5.8 offwidth , but they did climb the 5.7 crack which looked strenuous. We returned from the summit to the ridge and then Paul Morgan led down a ramp on the east face past a tree to the notch between the north and south summits.

Paul Morgan leads down the eastern ledges to bypass the south summit.

There was a good 5.4 move with fine exposure getting across the notch. Paul was pleased to do it just in front of a free solo climber. The free soloist. followed the other climbers up the left sloping 5.7 crack.

Matthes crest the notch between the N and S summits
A free soloer passes us at the notch between the north and south summit.

Click on the image below to see climbers ascending the north summit. The 5.7 crack is above and right of the climber in the shade, the offwidth crack is right behind the climber. It was my lead and I looked at the offwidth, then reached inside it and found a crack within the crack, it was such a great crack that my face burst into a grin. I zipped up the crack almost to the top before I placed pro in the crack to the left behind me. Paul found the crack challenging, he said that he could hear the metal plates in his shoulder grating as he did the strenuous pull-ups in the crack (The metal plates were the result of two motorcycle crashes during races.) Above the crux the climb to the summit was easy fifth class on textured rock with good pro. We arrived at the summit for lunch at 2:30 PM.

the North summit of Matthes Crest
The crux wall of the north summit viewed from the south summit.
The crux is up the corner of the large flake just right of center.

We continued on to the notch beyond the north summit. On the way we saw rappel anchors for the double rope rap to the base of the climb on the west side. We only had a single rope so we continued on to the notch where there were anchors for the four raps to the ground. I didn't know that there was a way to rap using just one rope (165 feet), but I had confidence that I could construct one if I had to. Thank goodness there were good anchors, including rap rings, all the way down. I started off on the second rap without seeing the next anchors, however I did see them below a small overhang after I had completed most of the rappel.

the second rappel of Matthes Crest
The second rappel on Matthes Crest.

We reached the ground after 4 PM, coiled the ropes and headed down the talus blocks back toward camp. When we returned to camp by 5:30 PM we were happy we hadn't continued along the alternate finish of the Matthes Crest traversing all the way to the end. I knew it would have taken a couple of hours more and would have exposed us to some dangerous traversing while we were tired.

Paul mOrgan at the base of the single rope Matthes rap.
Paul Morgan heads down the talus toward camp.
Our rappel route came down left of the shadowy chimney at the left side of this photo.

We drank a glass of wine with dinner to celebrate our successful climb to the summit, then slid into our sleeping bags for a really good sleep.

The next day was a "rest day," we loaded up our backpacks and hiked 5 miles out to our car, there we restocked the packs and hiked 7 more miles into upper Young Lakes in preparation for climbing the west ridge of Mount Conness.

Go on to Conness

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Scientific Explorations with Paul Doherty

© 2002

15 September 2002